Work

‘It’s not about how much money we make. It’s about how many lives we impact’

by Joanne Kwok // August 21, 2016, 4:56 pm

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Tennis is often described as a gentlemen’s sport. Hit the ball across the net, and back. Strategise. Know your opponent.

At Ignite Tennis Academy, head coach Jaime Wong aims to instil all these and more to her students. But beyond loving the sport, she also wants them to learn to love life, God and each other.

Tall and athletic, Jaime could be mistaken as a hard-hitting, driven coach who only wants her kids to succeed. And that’s who she was when she started out in the industry.

But life turned what she once knew on its head – when the tennis academy was forced out of the club it was originally located, and moved to Changi Beach Club.

“We lost 90 per cent of our clientele; we went from 250 students to 25 students. It was a really big blow for me. I felt that everything and anything that could have gone wrong went wrong,” said Jaime.

To compound matters, parents of the young children she was coaching started pulling out their kids due to Jaime’s aggressive approach.

Wanting her students to succeed no matter what, Jaime admits she put them in a “pressure cooker-style” environment, which drove some of them to tears.

“Well-meaning parents came to me and said: ‘You know, my kid is getting scared to come to sessions … maybe you’re being a bit too harsh. And I said: ‘You don’t come here to have fun, you come here to improve. If you’re not interested in improving, you’re not interested in winning. Then what are you doing here? Go somewhere else’,” Jaime recalled.

“That was my arrogant attitude.”

But that gave her the impetus to reflect on the reason Ignite Tennis Academy – which has a cross on its logo – was founded.

“When it was founded, this academy was going to be different. It was going to be for God,” she said.
And so Jaime learned to humble herself, apologise to her students, and teach them differently.

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“I don’t want to be that person that will drive you to success. I want to be that person who will lead you in the man or person that God has intended for you to be, and help you to fulfil and accomplish the dreams and the goals that God has for you,” she told them.

“These were for the Christian kids in our midst. And for the non-Christian kids, I told God: ‘I’m going to start reaching out. For every person that comes into Ignite, I want them to know that one, I love Jesus and two, that Jesus loves them’,” said Jaime.

NEW DIGS, NEW HOPE

With this came a turn of events – Ignite was presented with an opportunity to take up a spot in town – two dilapidated courts within the Salvation Army’s family hub. While Jaime initially had her reservations as there were only two courts, both of which urgently needed some work, she fell in love with the venue at first sight.

“I told God: ‘I’s not about how much money we make. It’s about how many students we have. It’s about how many lives we impact here at Ignite. If this is where you want us to be, this is where I want to be.’”

Things moved quickly. Miraculously, one night, Jaime had a dream detailing how with just a few simple steps, the space could hold five – instead of just two – tennis courts, enabling the academy to conduct more lessons and bring in more students.

Beyond serving, smashes and winning, Ignite Tennis Academy hopes to instil positive values in their students.

“One of the things that we value above improving their tennis skills is character development – ensuring that kids treat each other with respect each time they speak, that they’re building each other up and not tearing people down,” Jaime shared. This is especially important in a culture where accolades and accomplishments take precedence, she added.

Even while they play, the coach hopes her students focus not on winning, but on doing their absolute best.

“As they play tennis, I hope they keep the focus when they come on the tennis court – that they honour God with our attitude, with our effort, by using the gifts that He has blessed us with. And we use it to the best of our ability,” she said.

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Even while they play, the coach hopes her students focus not on winning, but on doing their absolute best.

“As they play tennis, I hope they keep the focus when they come on the tennis court – that they honour God with our attitude, with our effort, by using the gifts that He has blessed us with. And we use it to the best of our ability,” she said.

FOR AT-RISK YOUTHS, THE BALL IS IN THEIR COURT

Since 2015, the academy has worked with at-risk youths by offering tennis lessons as a rehabilitative programme, Jaime said.

“It’s been very fulfilling to see kids from broken families with broken lives coming for that time on the tennis court. To me that’s something you can’t put into words.”

Jaime may be an entrepreneur, decorated tennis player and author – among many other roles – but ultimately she considers a life that’s lived for something other than herself a life well-lived.

“It’s a life where I get to enjoy being with God. I get to enjoy serving Him and I get to share His love with His people,” she said.

With that as the impetus for everything she does, Jaime hopes that, every student or parent who walks through the doors of Ignite will be able to see the light, the guiding verse of the academy, which is Matthew 5:16: “Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”

READ MORE ON JAIME WONG: I WAS LOOKING FOR LOVE IN ALL THE WRONG PLACES – UNTIL LOVE FOUND ME 

About the author

Joanne Kwok

Joanne is a bundle of creative energy commonly heard before she is seen. She believes in the triune power of good conversation, brilliant writing and bold ideas. She also likes milo.